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Charles Manson associate Bruce Davis granted parole -- but will he walk?

By Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 7:44 AM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A California parole board grants parole to Bruce Davis, who'd been sentenced to life
  • An associate of Charles Manson, Davis was convicted of murder in a pair of killings
  • A governor reversed a board's decision to grant Davis parole twice before

(CNN) -- Bruce Davis -- a former associate of Charles Manson and a convicted murderer himself -- was granted parole Wednesday in California, the state Department of Corrections said, though that doesn't mean he'll necessarily become a free man.

Davis was sent to state prison on April 21, 1972, for the first-degree murders of musician Gary Hinman and stuntman Donald "Shorty" Shea in 1969. He was given a life sentence.

The corrections department's Board of Parole Hearings granted parole for the 71-year-old Davis following his 28th parole suitability hearing on Wednesday.

But the board's decision is not the end of the case. There's a 120-day internal review period. When that's done, Gov. Jerry Brown will have 30 days more to nullify or modify the decision -- meaning that, if everything goes his way, Davis could still be looking at another four months behind bars.

This image is the most recent photo of infamous inmate Charles Manson. This image is the most recent photo of infamous inmate Charles Manson.
Charles Manson: The infamous inmate
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Charles Manson: The infamous inmate Charles Manson: The infamous inmate

In fact, there's precedent for him not to be released. Twice, Davis has gotten an initial victory only to have his hopes of getting out dashed.

In January 2010 and October 2012, the parole board granted him parole. In the second case, the board explained it made such a recommendation because of Davis' "positive adjustment, record of no recent disciplinary problems, and for successfully completing academic and vocational education and self-help programs."

Both times, the sitting governors -- first Arnold Schwarzenegger and later Brown -- reversed that decision.

"When considered as a whole, I find the evidence ... shows why he currently poses a danger to society if released from prison," Brown wrote in 2013 to explain his reversal.

If this time proves different, Davis would become the first Manson "family" member to be freed solely for good behavior.

The group's gruesome killings inspired the best-selling book "Helter Skelter" and made their undisputed ringleader Manson a cult figure.

The 1969 spree ensnared several victims, including 8-months-pregnant actress Sharon Tate.

Manson is serving a life sentence for his role in nine murders. He was denied parole for the 12th time in 2012; his next such hearing is set for 2027, at which time he'd be 92 years old.

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CNN's Mayra Cuevas contributed to this report.

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